Brands know the importance of delivering a great customer experience in ecommerce – from the first touch to the last.

But most merchants consider the end of that process to be when the package arrives at the customer’s doorstep and the customer has the chance to unbox their items with delight.

Not so fast.

While it’s always the goal to deliver products that your customers will love, that’s not always going to happen on the first try. In fact, anywhere up to 40% of ecommerce products end up getting returned for a variety of reasons — maybe the product was too large, too small, or too pink. Maybe it had a stain. Maybe the customer bought five dresses with the intent of only keeping one.

Whatever the case may be, you need to factor the returns process into your customer experience, and look for opportunities to build a hassle-free post-purchase cycle for both your employees and your customers.

Brands that deliver a positive returns experience are far more likely to see those customers come back. In fact, 95% of shoppers said that they’d buy again from a brand that provided them with a good returns experience, while those with a negative experience were three times more likely to abandon the retailer. And many customers study a brand’s return policy before making an initial purchase, using it as a consideration to help them decide whether or not to buy from that merchant in the first place.

Here are some key strategies for setting your returns process up for success:

  1. Offer free returns
    When customers were surveyed about the factors in a return policy that prevented them from making a purchase from an ecommerce merchant, fees were at the top of the list. Eighty-three percent of customers said that restocking fees would turn them against shopping with a particular merchant, while 74% also said that return shipping fees would discourage them from making a purchase.

    To build a competitive return policy that will help you attract customers, offer free returns with no restocking fees so that customers can feel confident that they won’t be stuck paying extra if an item doesn’t work out.

  2. Provide a generous time window for accepting returned items
    While 30 days is the average window of time for accepting returns, consider offering a more generous policy of 45 or more days. Offering a longer time window for accepting ecommerce returns will help you attract more customers — and while you might assume it would lead to a higher volume of returns, Loop found that that wasn’t true.

    In fact, 80% of customers who return an item are going to do so in the first 14 days, regardless of how flexible your policy is. Extending your return window won’t negatively impact your bottom line; instead, it will boost your marketing efforts: 51% of customers said a too-short window for returning items kept them from making an initial purchase.

  3. Empower customers to process their own returns
    Customers also get annoyed when retailers require a return authorization, making them wait for a customer support agent to give them a return shipping label. Forcing customers who want to process a return into the customer service queue slows down customer support for the customers who do need it, and frustrates your customers with unnecessary wait times. Instead, consider using a self-service online portal like Loop, where customers can independently process their own eligible returns.

    You can set up customized workflows that use conditional logic to determine whether or not an item is return-eligible, so there’s no need to involve your customer support agents in the return process. Using a self-service portal will help your business improve efficiency while delivering a better customer experience during the post-purchase phase.

  4. Offer packaging-free drop-off locations
    While it may seem generous to offer your customers free return shipping with printable return shipping labels, customers today expect retailers to go even farther in providing a hassle-free returns experience. Once a package has been opened, most customers would rather not worry about having to safely repackage it for delivery back to your warehouse — they’d rather drop off the item to a drop-off location where it can be expertly packaged for reverse logistics. Thanks to Amazon’s drop-off location return system, this is already a common experience for customers, and so they expect the same from small merchants too.

    Loop’s new partnership with Happy Returns allows us to offer more than 5,000 drop-off locations around the United States, you can ensure that your customers can choose the most convenient return option for them when it comes to mailing back their items.

  5. Encourage customers to exchange items
    Many merchants miss out on the opportunity to reconnect with their customers by incentivizing exchanges over returns. By using an automated platform like Loop, you can deliver personalized product recommendations for exchanges, based on the customer’s specific reason for initiating a return. For example, if a pair of sandals was a little too snug, you can recommend the same product in a half-size up. If a customer is requesting a refund instead, you can even incentivize exchanges by offering bonus store credit, which will help you put the return revenue towards a new purchase rather than refunding it to the customer – and preserving the longevity of the customer relationship at the same time, which will boost your lifetime customer revenue.

By automating and streamlining your ecommerce return services, you’ll be able to deliver a great customer experience through every aspect of the customer relationship from the first time the customer visits your website or mobile app, all the way through to the return experience. And by ensuring that customers who need to make returns are satisfied with the process, you’ll be able to build their confidence in your brand and boost their loyalty, resulting in increased revenue and profits.

Ready to automate your returns process? Contact Loop for a demo.